Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Triplets of Belleville

Written and directed by Sylvain Chomet, Les Triplettes de Belleville (The Triplets of Belleville) is the story of an old lady who is aided by a trio of music hall singers and their dog to save her bicyclist grandson from the mafia in a big city. The hand-drawn animated film is a genre-bender that features comedy, drama, and bits of the musical to display Chomet’s world of the whimsical. Featuring the voice cast of Jean-Claude Donda, Michele Caucheteux, Michel Robin, and Monica Viegas. Les Triplettes de Belleville is a dazzling and truly delightful animated film from Sylvain Chomet.

While racing the French circuit, Champion has been kidnapped by the French mob along with two other racers as his grandmother Madame Souza and their obese dog Bruno decides to follow whoever had taken her grandson. Realizing that her grandson is on a ship, she and Bruno go on the trail to the city of Belleville. Despite having no money, Souza is aided by a trio of music hall singers known as the Triplets of Belleville who would help her retrieve her grandson where they learn about a mob leader’s dastardly plans to use him in a gambling scheme.

The film is essentially an adventure story about a grandmother trying to save her son from the mob with the help of a music hall singing trio where lots of hilarity and music interludes occur throughout the adventure. Yet, the story starts off with the Triplets of Belleville in their glory days as they perform with the likes of Django Reinhardt, Josephine Baker, and Fred Astaire as it watched by Madame Souza and her melancholic grandson to set up the entire story for the grandmother and her grandson. A story that recalls a boy lost without his parents where it would take a dog and a tricycle to cheer the boy up as she becomes his coach to become a bicyclist training for a top French bicycling circuit.

Then comes the main story of his kidnapping and the grandmother’s desire to retrieve him where she would meet this eccentric trio of singers who play music through their appliances where Souza would be an extra member to help fill out the music during a performance scene that would lead to a big climatic sequence involving the mob chasing the good guys in the strange city that is Belleville. A lot of it is told with very little dialogue and mostly through pantomime and physicality by its writer/director Sylvain Chomet.

Through its unconventional screenplay that is carried by its simple plot, Chomet allows the story to just play out and take its time without lagging in order to establish the characters and who they are. Chomet’s direction is definitely whimsical in the way the characters are animated as well as the locations that are created for the film. Notably the city of Belleville with its narrow lanes, big buildings, and other places is a character in the film to emphasize the new world that Souza and Bruno are in. The animation also plays to a lot of genres ranging from musicals to crime films where the latter takes place in the film’s climatic moment but done with a sense of humor to make the violence not seem as graphic though there is a moment where the violence does play to the stake of what is happening. Overall, Chomet crafts a truly rich film that does a lot to entertain its audience and succeeds in every level.

Editors Dominique Brune, Chantal Colibert Brunner, and Dominique Lefever do wonderful work with the editing to play out the film’s sense of humor and suspense through some straightforward cutting styles. Production designer Evgeni Tomov and art director Thierry Million do amazing work with the look of the towns and the city of Belleville to establish the differing worlds that Madame Souza is part of in reference to the latter. Sound editors Germain Boulay and Stephanie Perrin do brilliant work with the sound to play out the noises of the crowd scenes and the intimate moments involving Madame Souza and the triplets.

The film’s music by Benoit Charest is a major highlight for its playful score that adds to the whimsical tone of the film as it includes lots of early 20th Century jazz music to play up the world of the Triplets of Belleville. The song Belleville Rendez-vous is a charming little song that includes lots of strange percussions played by appliances as it’s one of the film’s highlights that is played in the closing credits. The voice cast is largely small as they play to crowd noises though the real standouts include Beatrice Bonifassi as the singing voice of the triplets while Charles Prevost Linton also provides other singing voices in the film.

Les Triplettes de Belleville is a ravishing and exciting film from Sylvain Chomet. Featuring marvelous musical numbers and comical moments that gets the audience laughing, it’s a film that has a lot of heart and whimsy to win anyone over. For those new to Chomet, this film is a great place to start to emphasize his unique animated style as well as quirky sense of humor. In the end, Les Triplettes de Belleville is a phenomenal film from Sylvain Chomet.

Sylvain Chomet Films: (The Old Lady and the Pigeons) - Paris Je T'aime-Tour Eiffel - The Illusionist (2010 film)

© thevoid99 2012


Chip Lary said...

I liked this film quite a bit, even the sick humor with the frogs. I had high hopes for his next film - The Illusionist - but I didn't like it as much.

thevoid99 said...

The stuff with the frogs were disgusting but funny. I like this film more than The Illusionist as well because it was funnier and had more music while The Illusionist was more melancholic.